Ranger Luke came to life during a walk with my nephews, after a long day walking in the dunes opposite where we live, nephew Luke was becoming increasingly tired, so I devised the character of Ranger Luke to keep him entertained.

These might be the ramblings of a mad man, but hey, who cares. If the only person who ever reads them, let alone enjoys them is Luke, then the mission is accomplished.

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The Waters Run Dry

A Hot Walk

The sun was beating down incessantly on Ranger Luke’s brow as he made his way across the savannah land, dusty eyes and a dry throat made his work all the harder. His most trusted of companions and work colleague Deputy Dylan was at his side, his tongue out and paws looking tired, Deputy Dylan was a dog.

They had been on the trail for a while now after leaving the Ranger station two days ago. They had begun their latest investigation after Dylan had heard from other animals in the area around the station that there was a situation developing on the savannah plains before sea. The reports were coming through that there was a drought in the area and the usually abundant flowers were not in the full bloom state that they should be for the time of year. While the weather had been hot of late, it was far from drought weather and the preceding rains should have been more than enough to keep the plains in full bloom. Ranger Luke had smelt a fish and they were on their way to investigate.

Luke looked up into the sky, it had just turned two in the afternoon by his calculations from the suns position, up ahead he could see the shadow of a large thorn tree looming. "We'll take a break there and get some fluids" Luke croaked out, Dylan nodded in appreciation. They reached the tree and settled down in the shade. Luke open his pack and dug around for a moment until he found what he was looking for, he pulled a small folding shovel from his pack, clicked it together and then start wandering around the tree kicking at the dirt. Eventually he found what he was looking for, a small succulent plant growing in the shade about a metre from the tree. He stuck the point of the shovel into the sandy earth and pushed it down into the ground with the heal of his boot. He worked there for a few moments until he had dug a small hole in the earth, the earth had turned a darker and darker colour as he had dug, until eventually it looked damp. One more good shovel full and the hole began to fill with water, this had only confirmed his fears that the recent reports were nothing to do with the weather, there was still plenty of water about and the water table was high. The water settled and the dirt sank to the bottom of the pool, Luke filled his water bottle and then gave Dylan, who in only a few minutes had managed to get in a siesta, a gentle nudge, Dylan stirred and rose and made his way over to the pool and started lapping up the warm but refreshing water.

They both sat there recovering from the mornings walking, Dylan was still taking on water, he didn't know when he was going to get his next drink. Luke rested his back against the thorn tree in a place where the tree had obviously been used as a scratching post for local animals, freeing the bark of its usually thorny deterrents. As the light breeze dried the sweat from the salty brows a light hum was carried with its refreshing coolness. The hum gradually got louder and as it did Luke and Dylan slowly started to turn their attention to it. At first Luke had thought it to be a nearby bees nest or at worst a locust cloud, but now there was a definite mechanical nature about the noise. They quickly gathered what little belongs they had and crawled beneath the scrub on the other side of the tree. While they had nothing to hide from, they were investigating what they thought was suspicious behaviour and this was the first sign of life they had seen for days.

In the distance now, the mechanical hum had a shape, it was a small single engine plane similar to the one they had back at the station. No markings on the plane excepted the registration number on its tail, Luke quickly noted this number down. Before long the plane was no longer in the distance and it was passing over their heads, as it past it showed no sign of having spotted them below. It buzzed off into the distance, rising to cross a small rock ridge ahead of them, before dropping below the horizon, as it did so the buzzing noise disappeared and the gentle rustling of the breeze replaced it once more.

Luke and Dylan both knew there were no registered airstrips in the area the plane was heading and that a plane of that size would need to set down in the near future to refuel, as the nearest airport in the direction that it had flown from was a good distance back. Luke took a quick compass bearing and they got their stuff together quickly, if they were going to make the ridge before nightfall they were going to have to move quickly.

Another Night under the Stars.

By the time the sandy earth had given way to rocks and then the rocks had given way to gullies and ravines on a rock face the sun was shedding its last rays of warmth and light on the day. Dylan want to get a bit further up the ridge as he knew there was a possibility they would be able to find a cave higher up to take shelter in for the night, well that and the likelihood of jackals and wolves patrolling the bottom of the slopes.

Sure enough as they climbed up the steep rock face on the side of one of the ravines, just before they reached the ridge top, they found a spacious cave. The outer edge of the cave was surround with thorny scrub and Luke got to gathering old fallen branches from the cave floor, soon they had a healthy pile in the centre of the cave entrance. Meanwhile Dylan had been taking out the bedding from the their packs and spreading it out at the back of the cave on two shelves that looked perfectly suited to the job of beds for the night.

With the cave still facing out in the direction of that the plane had flown rather than its destination, Luke wasn't concerned with the possibility of a fire alerting anyone down there of their presence high on the ridge. With a few sparks from his flint and steel, Luke managed to get some kindling going, he carefully placed the glowing embers into the bush branches he had gathered just minutes earlier and blew gently onto them. With moments a flame appeared from within the ambers, it lifted its head and flickered and in doing so caught the dry branches above and made the jump from the embers to the bush. Moments later Luke had a healthy fire going, Dylan came out from the back of the cave and they both got comfortable around the fire, its heat came just in time as the sun had now vanished and the warm day was replaced with a cold star covered sky.

The fire was now producing a steady heat from a glowing core, Dylan rigged up a spit on two sticks he'd salvaged from the fire pile. He then retrieved the two rabbits he had caught that morning from the back of the cave and passed them to Luke. Luke took the rabbits outside the cave to skin and gut and brought them back in, soon the rabbits were slowly cooking on the hot embers of the fire with some rosemary Luke had found outside.

After they had finished the rabbits, Dylan sat there for a while licking his lips to make sure he didn't leave any morsels in his whiskers, something which Luke was always laughing at him for, while Luke had gone to the back of the cave and was rooting around in his bag. Moments later he returned with his binoculars, "right, I think we should take a quick reccie to the top of the ridge and see what we have on the other side". Dylan begrudgingly moved slowly, he would have much rather taken a short nap after his dinner, but he knew Luke was right, whatever lay ahead of them tomorrow of the ridge they would be better prepared if they had some advanced warning of what to expect.

They scrambled up to the ridge top with the rock illuminated by the full moon that was out, the stars flickered above them and with the howling of the wolves that they could hear it was hard to believe it was the same place that they had been earlier on that day. As they crept over the edge of the ridge on the far side, almost immediately they could see lights on the plain below the ridge. There seemed to be a gathering of small corrugated huts with lights on and plumes of smoke rising from their chimneys into the night sky. Further away they could just make out a strip of land that must have been cleared for a runway. Surrounding the huts and the runway, the moonlight was casting shadows in strange almost perfect rows, it looked as if the ground had been churned up to form patterns. Luke focussed his binoculars in on a smaller light he could see just below them where the ground left the ridge and gradually flattened out. It was a guard tower, looking closer Luke spotted the guard with his feet up looking out of the surrounding area, he looked relaxed enough but leaning against him was a rifle. Whatever he was guarding down there, it was important enough to consider shooting someone.

Slip sliding away.

After a reasonable nights rest on a full stomach of rabbit next to the glowing fire embers, Luke and Dylan stirred to an amazing sunrise. It was a sunrise that Luke had now seen so many times now that he almost took it for granted, but after a night in the wilds, he usually found his senses refreshed and himself more aware of such natural beauty. With the sun rose just about all of the day time life of the ridge, all of the birds were in full song on their way to work and most of their work subjects were at work, with a number of insects already starting the natural process of these parts on the left over bones from the rabbit last night.

Luke's mind quickly drifted back to what he had witnessed last night, he wondered what the day ahead held for him and his trusted companion. Luke wasn't a big fan of guns, although he carried one with him at all times as a form of protection, he was protecting himself against the various man eating animals that he encountered on his trips, not other humans. But, last night he had spotted the guards were all armed, something he wasn't the least bit happy about. He need to identify what was going on over the ridge before he could call on any help from anyone else, but he would have to take care doing so.

They packed their sleeping bags, pans and other things they had used last night and carefully cleared the campsite in an attempt to leave no trace of their presence, should anyone come looking. They retraced their steps up the ridge and careful found their look out place from the night before. In the day light Luke could immediately see that the operation was an expansive plantation, with no risks being taken in it being spotted from the air, camouflage just about covered everything. He found his field glasses and tried to identify what was being grown, but with all the covers it was impossible, they were going to have to get closer.

Dylan made his way down the other side of the ridge, after discussion they had decided that he was to go on ahead to quietly to sniff out any trouble Luke might encounter on the way down. The ground was loose and he was having to take great care not to slip and create any noise. As he made his way down, his sensitive nose was building a picture for him of what had been going on in the area for the last few days, he could smell someone had been over the ground he was crossing, but not for some while now certainly several days. As the gradient of the ground slowly started to level out, the smell of human activity got stronger and stronger, until it became overwhelming. He stopped and not a moment too soon, he'd been paying so much attention to the details his nose had been revealing that he had forgotten to use his eyes, right in front of him was the base pillar of a hidden guard look out post he had been unable to see from above. Luke had told him before he set off that he would give him twenty minutes to get to the bottom and to do a quick reccie before he followed him down, with all the care Dylan had taken not to make any noise on the way down, his twenty minutes had expired, Dylan need to get back and warn Luke of the danger ahead.

Luke watched Dylan slowly descending the rocky gully below him until he turned a corner and moved out of sight, he glanced at his watch, it had already taken Dylan eight minutes just to get to where he was. They had agreed that Luke would follow Dylan after twenty minutes, but Luke was now worried it was going to Dylan far longer to reach the bottom. But when the twenty minutes were up, Luke grabbed his pack and set off down the slope himself, trusting that Dylan's nose alone would give him the extra warning that he would need of any trouble. The going was hard, it was much steeper than the other side of the ridge, Luke had to take great care not to slip as he made his way down the slope. He wasn't just worried about slipping himself, but equally his concern was with creating a landslide with all the loose rocks that were about and alerting the guards below to his presence. He was back climbing the last part of a rock face that would place him out of sight of his ridge top viewing point when the toe of his boot slipped, his free hand reached out desperately grabbing for any purchase that it could find to stop him from tumbling off the rock onto the scree slope below, just before his centre of gravity moved beyond the point of no return his finger tips grasped a tiny rock lip and held. He quickly found a foot hold for the boot that had slipped and made his way down the last of the rock face to the top of the scree. As he took his hands off the rock and steadied himself on the loose ground the sweat dripped of his nose, wiping his now badly scratched hand across his face, he removed the stinging sweat from his eyes, that had been a close call.

He continued on his way, taking care not to slip again on the loose rock, he was now within the direct line of sight of the operation that was taking place below him. The ground angle was starting to ease now, but he still hadn't spotted Dylan, he wondered where he had gone to. No sooner had this though left his mind when he heard some small rock movements below him, his heart missed a beat worrying that the guards below were on patrol in the area, he glanced to where the noise had emanated whilst trying to crouch down at the same time. Just as he spotted the familiar face of Deputy Dylan and he was about to breath a sigh of relief when his footed rolled over on the rock it was placed on, his knee folded and he pivoted forward. His hands reached out in front of him to break his fall, but the slope was still too steep and he dived forward meeting the ground with his chin and chest at the same time as his hands, the ground dug into his skin and his body weight caused the loose ground to start sliding, Dylan looked up in horror. He rolled over his head and back onto his feet and managed to arrest his fall, but below him the rocks that he had loosened had already gathered momentum and were bouncing down the slope, it was too late, as he struggled to find some cover, below him he could already hear voices and some of them sounding much closer than he had anticipated.